Two of the world's biggest democracies should do more to strengthen democratic institutions, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said today during his India visit.
"Shared values - freedom and equality - are key and none of us have done enough. We need to strengthen our democratic institutions. This is at the core of our relationship, beyond strategic and economic ties," Mr Blinken said.
"One of the elements Americans admire most is fundamental freedom and human rights. That's how we define India. India's democracy is powered by free-thinking citizens," Mr Blinken said.
Mr Blinken told civil society groups - his first appointment before meeting Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi - that the US and India are "connected by shared values" such as rule of law and freedom of religion.
"Both of our democracies are works in progress... As I said before, sometimes that process is painful. Sometimes it's ugly. But the strength of democracy is to embrace it," Mr Blinken said.
The Modi government has faced criticism over growing use of anti-terrorism legislation and sedition laws to arrest campaigners, journalists and students. The Supreme Court on July 15 described the British-era sedition law as "colonial", and questioned whether the law was "still necessary after 75 years of Independence".
In the talks with Mr Blinken, Indian officials are expected to express alarm over Taliban gains in Afghanistan. India is worried that a possible takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, which it sees as backed by Pakistan, will turn the country into a base for terrorists to attack India.
The Taliban welcomed virulently anti-Indian terrorists when it ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. A hijacked Indian airliner was flown to the Taliban bastion of Kandahar in 1999.
India, a firm backer of the Afghan government with billions of dollars in development aid, recently evacuated some of its staff from its Kandahar consulate due to the worsening security situation.